Why did the settlers on the Great Plains give up and move?

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After the Civil War, the government tried to incentivize settlement of the Great Plains. Between the Homestead Act, which offered free land to anyone settling on the Plains, and the expansion of the railroads, a lot of people migrated westward, and a lot of people were unable to adjust to...

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After the Civil War, the government tried to incentivize settlement of the Great Plains. Between the Homestead Act, which offered free land to anyone settling on the Plains, and the expansion of the railroads, a lot of people migrated westward, and a lot of people were unable to adjust to the demands that life there required.

The key thing to recognize is that life was hard on the Plains. For example, the environment itself placed severe demands on the people living there, with the sheer contrast between baking summers and frigid winters. Furthermore, settlers had to deal with an element of isolation, especially in the winter months when the temperatures plunged, and a lot of flat lands that went on for miles with nothing to see. The nearest neighbors could be miles away, and a lot of people snapped under that psychological strain. It was not an easy life and not the kind of life everyone was equipped to handle.

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First of all, we must note that not all of the people who settled the Great Plains did give up and leave.  While many did leave, many also stayed. 

That said, there were serious problems that faced settlers on the Great Plains.  The major issue is that the plains were not really a great place for farming given the technology of the day.  Farming was a very chancy thing due largely to the climate.  The rains were not reliable and farmers could have their crops devastated by drought or by any number of other problems.  The climate also made life in general difficult, particularly in the winters.

Largely for these reasons, the Great Plains were not a very good place for small farmers.  Many of them left because of these difficulties.  This area was much more conducive to the large corporate farming operations known as the “bonanza farms.”

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